Wednesday, February 27, 2013

let's go

One more homage to this winter and the snows it brought for us.

Wake up to a continuing snowfall. You think it's beautiful if it comes in December, but tedious when it comes in late February. Me, i think it's beautiful even now. Even if it means I need to clear the pathway to the farmhouse no fewer than five times today.

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We eat breakfast in the front room. It's a place where you can sit back, look out at the snow capped trees and think yourself to be pretty near heaven itself.

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My work day is long. But as I pull into our yet once more snow covered dirt road, I think -- maybe there's time still. And Ed tells me -- there's time still!

We go out to ski. It's dusky dusk, but we're determined.

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The snow keeps falling. There are no visible trails. We love it. Onwards!

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(Ocean author)

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I am sure that this is our last spin in the local park: I'm leaving tomorrow evening to see my mom in Berkeley and by the time I come back at the end of the weekend, I see that even this last snowstorm will be a thing of the past. The great final melt will be underway. But right now, tonight, there is this beautiful cover of snow.

And so we ski as if there is no tomorrow. The snow is sticky and wet, but it doesn't matter. We ski in deep appreciation of the skiing that we had this year. A last run is as good as the first run.

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After -- a quick supper of whatever I could find in the fridge.

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Tomorrow, I have a long work day followed by a long set of travel hours. I'll post here, on Ocean once I get to San Francisco.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Evening darkness came so early today that I had to look up daylight savings time for 2013. The hope being that it would come soon. (And it will: March 10th for the States.)

It's one of those days when it just feels dark outside no matter what time the sun sets. I cannot complain about the thermometer reading: 31 degrees at dusk. But tells me it feels like 18 out there and though I avoid having someone tell me what I should feel, I have to admit -- that's a pretty accurate assessment. Maybe 8 would be an even better guess as to how it felt walking to the donkey car after work.

The wind right now is brutal.

Of course, it's tough to give you a photo of a winter wind. There are the shivering trees. And the blowing snows across country roads (our snow cover isn't substantial right now, but what little there is blows right across, as if being chased by some holy terror). But the howl, the force of the wind is far greater than that. I'm thinking maybe I should detour just by a block or two and swing toward lake Monona, for a brief look out there.

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(yes, there is a lonely figure braving the winds in the middle of the lake)

It was so cold that I lasted all of five seconds.

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(and a hut with a fisherman in it)

Two photos and I am back inside the donkey car, thanking the little engine for producing a good, warm stream of air.

At home, I can hear the wind howling, loud and strong. Snow is coming down now. Or coming at us, in a horizontal direction. It would be a perfect day for staying put, not venturing anywhere at all, except, our town has a Common Council meeting tonight and both Ed and I want to present our reasons for stalling development just to the east of us. So after a quick supper of eggs and various veggies and a salad (the only color you'll get here today)...

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...we bundle up and emboldened, we set out. At the meeting, we say our stuff, listen to the vote (it's never in our favor, but we're chipping away, at least at the edges) and then, finally, we retreat to the farmhouse right as the blizzard-like snows add fresh layers of thick white stuff to the landscape.

Four deer stand by the road and watch the old donkey car struggle up the snow covered pavement. The wind continues to cause the trees to shiver. The night sounds of owls will be muted tonight, indecipherable. Instead, we'll listen to a loud roar, a gust, another roar. A concert of winter noises. I'm hoping it's the season's crescendo. That in a day or two, maybe three, we'll have moved on. To spring.

Monday, February 25, 2013


For a good part of the day I thought the best I could do today, indeed, the only thing that I could post about today would be breakfast. Such as it was.

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Because  immediately after that, I had dental appointment number two (out of the needed three, all in the matter of one tooth). For which I allocated an hour. It took three hours. Three hours! For no good reason, except that things moved rather slowly in that office today. Very slowly.

After, it was a gallop to get to work on time and then of course I was terribly behind with everything and it was in that frenzied set of hours that I thought -- what the hell. It'll be about breakfast.

I came home as the sun disappeared to the west. Ed was winding down his engineering project and he was ready for a break. Want to make ginger ale from scratch?
Make it -- okay. Drink it -- no.
Too much sugar! I say as he reads off the ingredients.
We can cut the sugar in half. Or more...
Then it becomes ginger, water and lemon.

It's not a big undertaking. I grate some ginger, twist out a bit of lemon juice and Ed throws it together with yeast and (a decreased amount of) sugar and water.

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Outcome? Ask me in 24 hours. I cannot imagine it to be anything but strange and yet it is very calming to be finishing the day with making something so inconsequential as ginger ale.

Dinner is not a worry: we have plenty of leftovers. Leftover chicken soup. Leftover beans and shrimp. And a fresh salad and then a freshly roasted whole head of cauliflower because sometimes, you just crave cauliflower. And of course, you crave it all the more when you read in the paper that this very diet of foods, foods that you love more than nearly any other foods on the planet are what the world calls the Mediterranean diet and BTW it's good for you!

So, our supper of leftovers...

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... on this otherwise tedious and only in rare flashes delightfully playful day.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

night owl

We hear her almost every night. I think her song comes from the west of the house. Ed thinks she's to the east. We've never seen our night owl.

Lately, much of Ed's restless night time has been given over to an engineering project he has been working on. He'll head over to the sheep shed when I can't keep my eyes open anymore. Almost always I wake to hear him come in a few hours later. And so it was last night -- at around 1, he comes into the room, happy to tell me about the moon. You were right -- it's almost as bright as daylight out there. (I'd been telling him how beautiful it is when a full moon -- or, in this case a one day short of a full moon -- comes out over snowy white fields... today, we have out there this rare and perfect winter night.)

I can't resist stepping out. Just a coat thrown over my shoulders -- it isn't really cold outside. Twenty degrees maybe. It's not easy to take photos, especially without a tripod and yet I have to try. Here's one. The moon's to the right, up high. The shadows are long. The air is still.

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A handful of hours later it is the cat's turn to be restless. As he moves from one side of the bed to the other, I take a look out the window. 6:30. The sun is about to come up over the horizon.

It's been a while since I've gone out for a sunrise. Too cold to do my usual -- hop on Rosie and scoot toward the lake. But not too cold to get into the donkey car and spin it in that direction. Past one of my favorite fields here -- always serene, always breathtaking, even in predawn light.

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And then toward Lake Waubesa. I stand for a long while looking out at the frozen waters. I am not the only one up and about: a few solitary fishermen are setting up their station. I watch them move slowly from one point to another. The sky is turning lighter and finally the sun breaks through.

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It's funny how quickly the sun moves once it's up and climbing (so to speak). By the time I turn the donkey car in the direction of home, the fields have stripes of gold and the forest has taken on the deepest orange colors. This is almost always a good time to mingle with the deer herds and sure enough, I come across this stately animal, just before she takes one of those famous high leaps and disappears from sight.

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And so breakfast comes rather late in this Sunday story that is more about the night than the day that follows.

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Not that the day is inconsequential -- no, not at all. Yoga. That. With my yoga buddy. And then, because it is so springlike outside (mid thirties and sunny!), I coax Ed into one more spin on skis. No snow pants for me. Not even a cap. Just the sublime feeling of air and sun, announcing the season ahead  of us, letting go of the one we're all so tired of.

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And as long as we're so close to spring, we make a quick trip to Farm & Fleet. Ed needs a saw blade, we need a furnace filter and in addition, for once Ed is willing to do clothes shopping. In his usual way, he picks up (with just a few guiding hints from me) all that he claims he needs for the next year. Or more. The bill, including the blade and the filter: $96.

Evening now. My daughter is here. We're eating a supper of shrimp and beans, watching the Oscars.

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If I'm lucky, I'll stay awake for the entire presentation. That rarely happens, but I'm feeling rather night owlish lately.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

turning the corner

With the temperatures at freezing, I consider this to be the beginning of winter's end. And that just puts a jolly spin on things.

Jolly enough to get me to the early morning yoga class.

Jolly enough to eat (break out from the routine!) a granola breakfast with Ed (who breaks out of his same old and joins me in the granola madness).

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People down south may wonder what all the fuss is about: 32 degrees and I'm cheerful? It reminds me of the scene in Silver Linings where the judges score a dance... oh, I can't give that away! just go see the movie and you'll understand.

It's all relative.

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In the ten day forecast for my home town, only two days show highs that don't have a "3" as a first digit and those are the two days when I wont be here!

Could it mean that winter is fizzing away? Like the last bubbles of a Cava that you let stand opened overnight? A little there, but no longer very assertive?

Thinking that this may be the last possible day (or at least weekend) of skiing, we go out to our nearby trails for a good hour spin through the familiar paths.

The day is lovely! Just cold enough to keep the snow more or less in place (and to keep the ice fishermen happy)...

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...but also warm enough to open up the jacket and let the scarf fly!

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 I leave you with this thought: winter may be over and done with.

Friday, February 22, 2013

good natured

It's not as if Ed enjoys being photographed. At some level, I'm not sure he fully understands why I bring the camera to the breakfast table every morning.

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Or, if we're both outside, why I point it at him instead of... elsewhere.

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But he doesn't object. He has a quiet and gentle disposition and he doesn't protest the inconsequential.

Today, since I worked at home, I felt especially that much of my off-work thoughts drifted toward our quirky curious (and in many ways so conventional) life together. And maybe this is because we are actually scheduled to go out on what you might call a date -- movie and a dinner (better value in that order). And so I thought about how rarely we do that and how mostly this is my fault: I've always loved cooking a meal in the evening with someone there in the background to whom I might make an occasional remark. It's such a good way to end a day! And so when asks -- do you want to go out? -- I almost always say no, thank you.

But one must step out of one's comfort zone occasionally and so I pick an Oscar nominee that has a high chance of appealing to me ('Silver Linings Playbook') and out we go.

(Later) And it could not have been a better night. True, I cry my way, loudly, uncontrollably through the last five minutes of the movie, but if you've seen it, you'll surely understand why. Dinner? We drive down to a Taste of India -- a small place with very typical very good very Tandoori Masala kind of cuisine...

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So you see a lot of Ed in today's photos. It's not intentional. But it is as it really is.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

the week in review

My work week, like your work week, doesn't end until tomorrow (and actually, mine is rather fluid, often spilling over into odd days and even odder hours). But except for rare Fridays, I do not usually teach on that day. And so Thursday feels like the end of one week and Friday feels like the beginning of the next.

As my "work week" came to a close, I thought how unpredictable it all is. You start the week anticipating nothing more that a few tight hours, a handful of long days, and maybe one small screwup somewhere along the way.

You don't bargain for a crushed back, a lost vote before the Plan Commission, a tooth that falls apart before your eyes... and so on and so forth.

But you also can't know that at the end of it all, you may well come out whole. And if and when you do, it feels quite humbling.

So here I am, humbled.

 As for the trivial aspects of the day, I'll give you, of course, breakfast -- note that I trimmed Ed's beard, finally!

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Then, a shot of the iced-over dirt driveway, in the glow of the morning sun...

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And finally, at the end of the day, the week, at the end of it all, a pot of home made chicken soup. For the comforting elements that it provides.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Wednesday daylight hours are precious time for me: I work on my classes for the remaining days of the week. I make sure time wont run out on me. And, of course, I teach.

Not so clean cut this Wednesday.

I had been sitting in my office earlier in the week wondering if I had a tooth ache. You know how that goes: it hurts, it doesn't hurt. You wiggle it, press on it, chomp with it and then you assess. Yes hurts. Maybe not.

I call the dental office. How about coming in sometime in March?  -- the receptionist asks.
In March? That's weeks from now! And suddenly the pain in my mind grows to something big.
The receptionist reconsiders. How about tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7 (she means a.m.)?

Well alright. You can't say no to someone who's trying to do you a favor. Even if the dentist is a half hour drive from the farmette.

There is a long story in the series of events that then unfurled, but surely dental stories are the least interesting stories on the planet, so I'll short cut to the punch line. Root canal. Now, today, soon. Over at the endo guy. After that, in a few days, a crown.

Don't think this is news to me. I have postwar Polish teeth. It's like being raised without childhood vaccinations: it stays with you for the rest of your life.

So in between appointments I go home to gather my papers for work and yes, I pause for breakfast, because this day surely offers few other delights...

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...and then I go back and spend hours in a half reclining dental chair.

When we pass the noon hour, I start to get nervous. I have a class to teach at 1:20, I tell my excellent and wonderful endo guy. You think I'll be able to get there on time? He is reassuring. We continue. And at 1, he proclaims he is done (for now).

I fly out of there, numb, drugged, a bit wacky really. But I am before my Property class at 1:22.

I apologize profusely for being late. And for having a face that really isn't all that functional.

I survive, they survive.

After, I work hard to make up the time lost this morning. No Paul's cafe after classes. And you're asking about lunch? No, not that either.

I come home to the farmette completely wiped. No new photos for you. Wipedness doesn't lend itself to photography.

Well, maybe this: as I am about to turn in toward the farmhouse, I think -- this is so us! A long, slick, impossibly slick driveway. Framed by pools of ice to the side.


After, I reheat the soup, make the usual salad and admire the little icicle just outside the window.


Since I like a glass of wine with dinner, I've not bothered with the prescription for pain killers. You can't have both. I choose a very full glass of Cava.

There you have it, that's my day. And yours?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

hardy souls

Well, there's no reason to pretend otherwise: it was a treacherous morning: a cold, freezing cold morning that blustered in overnight, freezing every melted strip of water or slush, freezing it so solid that nothing heartwarming can be said of it.

I do have the colors of breakfast for you and I must post these because otherwise the bleakness of this day would stand out. Do note the flowers: the last days of February in the upper Midwest must have flowers brought to kitchen tables. They make life sane.

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Immediately after breakfast I struggled to get into the Donkey car and, predictably, I could not get the doors open. With a still sore back, I wasn't ready to climb in through the hatch and so I had Ed run out in his nighttime attire to help me out.

The country roads were covered with frozen slush, the winds blew horrific gusts of icy snow across any bare patch of asphalt.

In the city, the street were manageable but the sidewalks were a mess. Winter was taking a final brave stand here -- showing off all that it can do.

Sometime while I am tucked away in the law building, things settle down. The sun even comes out for a bit. But the cold stays with us.

Back at the farmette, nothing seems photographable (rare is the day that I think that). The light dusting of snow on trees no longer looks unusual or delightful.

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It seems tired. Done that already. Let's move on. (I'm not unreasonable: I'll accept a solid February snowfall, but this isn't that. It's an ice over, without the benefits of a good base for, say, skiing.)

Reluctantly, I take out the camera -- my good one no less, as my pocket guy is away for yet another repair. Click. There you go. With a bit of blue. A patch of hope.

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It is unfortunate that the night is bitter cold. Ed and I are out attending a Plan Commission meeting where the long term fate of the fields around us is being debated. I have to say, in the long long run, it's a foregone conclusion: the beautiful fields that give us so many market fruits, vegetables and flowers will, I think, one day be developed. We're too conveniently close to downtown Madison. It's a dream spot, really, for that sprawling entity called the never ending suburb. But not now, not yet, not when we have development elsewhere, pushing its way in all directions!

The skies are clear. We're heading significantly into negative temperature territory. May it be the last really cold spell this winter. We're hardy souls up here in the northern Midwest, but let's switch air currents now for the rest of winter. No more Arctic blasts. We're ready to move on.

Monday, February 18, 2013


This afternoon, as I prepared to lift myself out of the Donkey car so that I could carry my MacBook Pro laptop in for a check-up (I mean, it shouldn't be crashing every time I work on photos stored within), I thought seriously about taking a day off from work tomorrow.

My back is wagging its finger at me: do not scrub the house so forcefully next time, or be prepared to pay the consequences!

Not moving for a while, a long while, suddenly seemed so very appealing.

The moment passed. At the Apple Store, the Apple Genius at the Genius Bar did this check and that check and then looked me in the eye and said -- I have never, ever in my life seen so many photos stored in iPhoto. Your computer is crashing because iPhoto was never meant to be responsive to manipulations on... (insert 25,000 here) photos. Buy the Aperture Application and your problem will disappear.

How I hate it when people tell me to BUY more stuff. Especially after I am still processing the realization that I underestimated my taxes for the past year.

The Apple Genius, smart as he was about the inner working of my laptop, never even noticed that I was in complete back pain while sitting at the cool-but-very-uncomfortable-for-people-with-pulled-back-muscles stool.

Earlier, I had to scoot and rush to the clinic to have stitches removed from my leg. The nurse asks -- is your leg bothering you? Leg? Who cares about my leg! Please just assist me in lying down on your ever so appealing patient table so that I do not have to support myself in this upright position for another minute. Because my back is killing me!

She tells me worriedly -- maybe you should talk to your doctor. I smile benevolently. I need a few hours lying flat on a hard surface. In the alternative, an Advil or Moltrin or some pill, which, frankly, I should have taken hours ago, but I am just so pill averse and now here I am wanting to pat a sweet nurse on the shoulder to reassure her -- it'll be okay. Let me go now. It'll be okay.

In other news... well, there was breakfast.

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And the promise of a mild weather day...

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...which will be replaced by less mild days imminently, but who cares. We have a mild day. 

And so it's perhaps odd to be making a pot of tomato soup tonight, but I had pulled out a huge pack of garden tomatoes from the freezer yesterday and there they were and there was I and it seemed right. Even as my back protested the whole while long.

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How did you do this to yourself? -- the nurse had asked me earlier.
Well now, I was meticulously house cleaning on Sunday.
You too? So many people told me they did major house cleaning this past week-end.

Sigh. We are a boring lot.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Maybe it's having spring thoughts that spurs the clean-up machine within me. Or maybe it's that I'd been lax with my weekly scrubbing and I was beginning to notice the effects of that. Or maybe it's because I took out all the cleaning paraphernalia from underneath the kitchen sink and that prompted me to get serious and use it all today.

I don't really understand why there are people (like me) who insist on overdoing once they start something (just as I had overdone it yesterday with so much effort put into a failed project! Not my fault there, by the way. The website I was working with refused to load...), but there you have it, I belong to those who plunge, full speed forward and then, much much later, sit back and study the damages.

Today's cleaning extravaganza resulted in a very sore lower back and a very clean everything else. Including the basement. Because yes, we even attacked that -- me, vacuuming cobwebs from the rafters and a year of dust from the floor, Ed tidying shelves of whatever stuff he wont store elsewhere.

So please forgive this post: it is what it is. We did little else today.

Well, unless you want to consider the breakfast. Front room today. (With my sweet guy, with his oddly broken pinkie finger and a shirt that should have been retired decades ago.)

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And, too, I can give you yet another photo of the farmhouse, from it's less photographed side -- the one that actually faces the street. (You can't see its original front entrance, because it's behind trees and besides, it is in a sad state of disrepair and Ed has little interest in fixing it. His reasons are irrelevant and unconvincing but there you have it).

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We had gone out that way, toward the cluster of neighbors (we have a few, but we are separated by more than fields -- we are isolates, all of us and we rarely (never?) knock on each others doors so today is a milestone). We were distributing information about a town meeting this coming Tuesday. Oddly enough we belong to a town, even though that town along with any commercial point is really miles away. We plan on attending the meeting we want to encourage others to attend. There are rumors of a development that may someday (soon?) replace the fields where farmer Lee and her extended family now grow market produce. There are many reasons why a development here, now, is not a good idea (and they are not only NIMBY reasons). So there we were, going door to door -- a most unusual activity for the two of us.

How come you hate this so much? -- he asks, after I wince at the prospect of yet another house.
I have to be friendly.
You don't like being friendly?
I don't like failing at being friendly.

In the evening Isis is a little under the weather. Ed works on an engineering project I cannot begin to understand. Supper is simple, the evening is too short. I watch a movie about young love. ("Like Crazy.") Sad. But then, when is young love anything but sad?  Or is it that it has to be sad before the good years come spilling forth?

Day ends, house is clean. Ready for the week ahead. And that's a good thing.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Today I learned patience. I spent seven hours on a project that ultimately failed. I'd let you know what it was, but, in the spirit of forgetting failures and forging ahead with success, I'll let it go for now.

So tonight we watch a more than mildly depressing movie -- "the human resources manager" -- an Israeli film about... well, death and family and a little bit of Rumania thrown in (which, in this movie, reminds me of Poland twenty years ago).

And you'd think this would make for a dismal day. Well no.

There was early morning yoga.

And mid morning breakfast.

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And much later, I stepped outside to see if the opossum had eaten the ginger cookies we'd left out for him.

He hadn't.

But there was a break in the clouds and even though it was cold, it felt very pre-spring.

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So let's stay with that image. Of forming buds, of melting snows and of successful projects. To be here tomorrow. Or soon after.

Friday, February 15, 2013


A few math problems for you, to keep your brain cells sharp:

First of all, if Isis spends 80% of the day napping and Ed spends about half as much time at napping, how many wakeful hours do I have with either one of them? (Assume I sleep about 7 hours per night and that my sleep hours overlap with Ed and that I work for the better part of the time before dinner.)

Second question: how many photos of breakfast did I take to finally end up with these -- of a breakfast partially set...

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...and of a breakfast ready to be consumed by my breakfast companion (who is really into his Toasty-Os lately)? [5]

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Next: if, in the last twenty or so years I have never owed additional taxes on April 15th, what are the chances that I'd owe this year?

I'll give you the answer to the last as it's fresh in my mind, having completed my tax returns just today: 100%. It has something to do with no longer claiming deductions. I don't really object to taxes in principle, but I do object to being surprised, nay, shocked by a bill for anything that exceeds $100 and yes, my liability exceeds $100. So that's a bummer.

I offered this deal to Ed: I would chip away the ice on the path to the sheep shed in exchange for him picking up my tax liability. He politely declined.

Still, it is a sunny (coldly so!) day and as I walk the farmette lands to lift from my shoulders the preoccupation with the almighty dollar, I think how it really is so very sublime when the winter sun has finished three-fourths of its journey across the great Midwestern sky.

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At home, the sun lingers on the bouquet of colorful rose buds and this, too, is such a fine moment that I nearly forget about all those math computations.

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Just one more arithmetic query then: how many suppers can I make out of one head of cabbage? Especially if I supplement it with salads with roasted beets, just to put some color into the package? [3]

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